Tweet at your own risk: one-in-five tweets reveal user location

Think you are in control of your online privacy? There is a strong chance you’ve revealed compromising data about yourself without even knowing it. A new study shows that many twitter users may be inadvertently advertising their location. More than 15 million tweets were sampled in this research, and while only 6% of people on twitter actively choose to reveal where they are at (by opting in to location based tweets), as many as one in five tweets can be used to trace exact locations.

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The researchers created a program to analyze the metadata collected by Twitter, including details about the user’s hometown, time zone and language. They found that 20 percent of the tweets collected showed the user’s location to an accuracy of street level or better. That amount to more than 4 million tweets a day that can be used for identifying user data without their consent.

The ability to track you without your knowledge or consent has some obvious scary implications. Criminal activity such as identity theft is just the beginning. For example, for parents with kids using twitter it is particularly scary to think that anyone on the web can potentially know where they are. The data can also be abused by governments and corporations who do not necessarily have your interests at  heart.

The solution? Well its not that easy, to be honest. In fact even the lead researcher of this project found out that his own tweets could be used to pinpoint his exact location. Think about that the next time you broadcast you witty messages t the world.

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